Why Focusing On Motivation Won't Help You Stick To A Workout Routine


I'm going to come right out and say it: It's time you rethink your fitness motivation.

For most people who want to go to the gym more often, they label a lack of motivation as the culprit. It's what they blame for why they haven't been able to get going with their health and wellness goals.

"If only I was more motivated, I would have gone to the gym this morning."

"If only I was more motivated, I wouldn't have eaten a large pizza in one sitting last night."

"If only I was more motivated, I would be more fit by now."

“But I'm not,” you tell yourself. So, you stress yourself out, getting mad and disappointed that you aren't more motivated.

But, the problem isn't that you aren't motivated. It's that you are using motivation as a barometer for whether or not you do the things you need to do in the gym.

There are two inherent problems with this:

Motivation isn't something we have that much control over.

Sure, we like to think we can dictate our motivation levels as they suit us. And for some people, they can.

But, we all experience various forms of resistance. It's there, waiting for us anytime we want to do something that is ultimately to our benefit.

That is why motivation fails us so often. We treat it as the doorman of our goals instead of how we should be treating it: as a flittering, fickle and erratic feeling.

When you start treating it like a feeling — like happiness, grumpiness or sadness — and realizing it's not entirely consistent, you can better navigate its ebb and flow.

How much you slept the night before will dictate how motivated you are. How well you ate will dictate how energized (aka, motivated) you are. How stressed you are will dictate how motivated you are. And so on.

Motivation is constantly pulling back and forth on you, and it's ultimately unreliable.

Understanding this is key because once you do, you begin to realize you don't need it nearly as much as you think you do.

This transitions us nicely into the second problem with motivation…

Motivation doesn't always show up before we start something.

It's a classic cart before the horse dilemma. We think we need motivation to start, and so we wait around until that magical moment that we “feel like it.”

That leaves us waiting around for a long, long time.

We don't always wake up ready to rock and roll at the gym or run 3 miles.

But once you get under the bar or run a couple blocks, suddenly that resistance melts away and you feel — you guessed it — a little bit motivated.

Motivation to work out comes from doing it, not from thinking about doing it.

Starting is the whole ball game.

You don't need to think about completing the whole workout, the whole run or the whole swim practice. You just need to dial in on getting your foot in the door and doing the first rep, the first hundred yards or the first lap in the pool.

This is all great and fantastic, but it doesn't solve the fundamental problem: How do I get motivated to start?

The truth is, you don't.

Set up routines and systems for progress (and motivation)

When we hear the word “routine,” we tend to recoil.

It carries with it connotations of boredom, of being robotic and of being stuck in a rut.

But when it comes to crushing our goals in the gym, there is no more powerful way to make progress while also getting profoundly motivated along the way.

Here is a handful of ideas to get you going:

1. Schedule your workouts.

Research on habit formation has shown that those who specifically schedule tasks are far more likely to achieve them.

Put together a realistic schedule for your workouts that include what time you are going to walk through the doors of the gym and pump some iron.

2. Have plans and routines for your diet.

Meal prepping is hands down the best thing to happen to my health since the Shake Weight.

In all seriousness, planning my meals gives you back control of your diet and removes you from being at the whims of being motivated to eat well.

3. Track your progress.

Writing out what you are up to in the gym in a workout log is a proven and powerful way to keep you on track, consistent and motivated.

It happens in a variety of ways, from giving you a platform to recognize your small wins to planning and scheduling your training, to being the thing that helps you plot your trajectory of progression.

The takeaway

The relationship we have with motivation isn't always a good one.

It fluctuates according to mood and how we have treated our body that day. You can take its power over your inaction away by instituting some basic routines in your daily life that will bypass it completely.

After all, we want to feel motivated to do hard stuff.

We want to experience the good feelings that come from working hard and being motivated.

But as you already know from past personal experience, it's often doing the thing we avoid doing for so long that ends up being the most motivating thing of all.